Home » Archive » Volume 2 (2011) » Issue No.2 » A king with rags: Cypriot meal habits of the past and traditional food products

A king with rags: Cypriot meal habits of the past and traditional food products

Varvara Yiangou, Dimitra Demetriou, Chrystaleni Lazarou, Antonia L. Matalas

Pages: 95-102


Aim: The scientific literature contains limited information on the description of the diets traditionally followed by the Greek populations of the Mediterranean region. The purpose of this study was to examine the meal habits of the Greek inhabitants of Cyprus during the pre-industrial era.

Material-Methods: Data were collected from published studies and essays on Cypriot rural life, descriptions written by tourists, published folklore material, as well as from oral testimonies recorded in the field.

Results-Conclusions: Most of the goods consumed in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century were produced within the household. Three main meals were described, the proeman or boukoman, the mesomerkasman and the dinner, and were all characterized by seasonal variation. Cereals and pulses were the basis of meals. For the peasants, the proeman included food items, such as pulses, and a kind of wheat porridge, while mesomerkasman was often limited to a fast type of food, which did not require cooking, complying with the traditional model of xerophagia (eating dry food). On the other hand, the dinner more often consisted of cooked food. Apart from these three meals, peasants often ate intermediate snacks. Geographical differences were observed regarding the composition and the importance of meals, depending on the agricultural activities in each area. Meal habits of Cypriots are being continuously modified as a response to changes in the cultural and natural environment. Thus, knowledge of traditional practices is useful as the modern Cypriot society is experiencing the consequences of nutritional transition and globalization.


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